Sunday, June 26, 2016

So, You Want A Place In Oxford

You went to school years ago at the school up north, located in a town called Oxford.  Every fall you make the Saturday trips to Mecca, better known as "The Grove".  You pay your dues so you will have a place under the oaks to call your home along with your fellow tailgaters. if only for less than 24 hours.  Then its pack it up time, haul it all off, and then do it all again repeatedly all fall.  Thankfully the "tent set up guy" handles the heavy stuff, and he pretty much guarantees you your same spot week after week, year after year!

Then, if you're like us, you have the car all packed up, and you are in your own bed by 2 or 3 in the wee hours of the morning.  This is easy in the early years, you are young, you bounce back strong.  Later in life, your eyes open, but nothing else is moving.  If you're lucky, you can get a room in town on a nonconference game weekend.  During SEC game weekends, the room rates are out the roof!  Some locals are now renting out their homes on those big SEC weekends.

By now, your kids are out of the house, out of college, and hopefully off the payroll!  Let's buy a condo!  No more late night travel, a place to call your own, and friends will always be welcome!  We've got plenty of extra money now, let's do it!

Well guess what, you are now behind in the game.  All the old apartment complexes built in the 70's to 90's have already gone condo, and they are all owned by investors, retirees, and weekenders, just like you.  If you are lucky, and your timing is just right, you might catch one on the resale market, as kids graduate, and the parents lose interest, or they are now selling to "move on up"!

Condos selling below $90,000 are nonexistent.  Those going for $91,000 to $115,000 are far and few between.  The pickings become more plentiful once you get into the $125,000 to $250,000 range.  And don't forget the HOA fees, which on the low end are $300 to $600 per quarter.  Some have a pool and club house, while on others the fees only cover the building structure.

The housing market is not any better.  Houses going in the $150,000 to $250,000 range are receiving 3-6 offers within days of going on the market.  The builders are pre-selling their developments, attracting the higher income sector and the retirees looking to relocate to Oxford.

The Spousal Unit and I ventured into this land of OZ yesterday.  Our price range limited us to five units to look at.  Two of these were townhouses, with upstairs and downstairs, and one sold pending the day before our tour.  Two of the others were the same floor plan, 2 bdr, 2 bathrooms, at one complex, and were 1100 square feet.  The last one was 840 square feet and was in one of the oldest apartment complexes in town and was 2bdr with one bath.

I had viewed pictures of the 840 sq. ft. unit on the internet the day before.  When we stepped into it, it was like OMG!  this is one of those tiny houses we've seen on TV, but bigger.  Apparently I had a pre-conceived mental picture of the dimensions in my head, but that was quickly blown away once I stepped in!

After touring all the units, we had to narrow our choices down.  That was easy, all the townhouses were marked off the list quickly.  The days of falling down stairs are long gone and the days of having to crawl up stairs are fast approaching.  The 840 sq. ft. unit had location going for it but nothing else.  That left us with two units at the same complex, with one being upstairs, and the other down.  These were two units of five that an investor bought up less than two years ago, and he was now cashing in.  The downstairs unit it will be!

None of these units have been "flipped" and as the realtor kept saying, some just need some "lipstick".  The same units flipped were going for $140,000 up.  Fortunately the old saying that "you can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig" doesn't apply to Condos.  A fresh coat of paint, new carpet or floors and some work on the kitchen, and you've got yourself a weekender!

An offer has been made.  Now the waiting begins.......

Sunday, June 19, 2016

One Day

Well, I've reached the magic age of almost 60 and my boys are now full fledged adults .  "one day" they too will be called Dad!

One day, the woman in your life will surprise you with the words "you're gonna be a Daddy".  These are magical words because suddenly, with those five words your whole outlook on life just changed.  You will watch her tummy grow, and before long, you will feel and see movement coming from inside of her.  Together ya'll made this happen and both of you will be welcoming one of God's gifts into this crazy world we live in.

One day your life will be full of new firsts.  You will welcome your newborn to this world.  You most likely will hear the first cry at delivery.  The first diaper change won't be far behind.  You will now be responsible for three lives, not just your own.  The responsibilities are only beginning!

One day you will discover the first tooth. 

One day you will help with those first steps.

One day you will remember swearing you would never enter a McDonalds again.  You will be in the parking lot, about to revisit your own childhood with your first adult purchase of a happy meal!

One day you will be dropping off and picking up at daycare.  Then, there is the first day at real school.  Momma's aren't the only ones to shed a tear as you drive off, leaving your precious cargo in someone else's care.

One day you will be that T-ball and soccer coach.  You will learn from a kid's perspective, that running through the tunnel after the game and enjoying snack time are the best parts about sports.

One day you will be there to make bobos all better.  They will fall down, and you will be there to pick them up,  The hardest part is when its time to let them pick themselves up.

One day you will be there for the first date, the first dance, and the first curfew.

One day you will be there when your precious one graduates from high school and is about to move off to college.  You will hope and pray that you have taught all the right life lessons along the way and that your precious one remembers them.

One day your life as a college parent will end, and your precious one has become that new adult with the world waiting on them to make a difference.

One day you too, will be sitting at home, waiting for that special phone call, or visit, from the one that calls you "Dad".  It will be your turn to reminisce and wonder where all the time went.  You will wonder, "did I give it my all?"  For me, there are no regrets, no wishes for second chances.

I was there for you every step of the way.  Hopefullywe both learned a lot, some things for the first time, and others as reminders of those life lessons that came our way.

My "One Day" has been every day of your young life.  It is my hope that you have at least half as much fun in life on your "One Day" as I've had in mine.

Life is good, 'One Day" at a time.......

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Fairhope and Point Clear

When you finally get across Mobile Bay on the dreaded I-10 tunnel and bridge, take a right on old Hwy 98.  This will lead you to a different slice of paradise.

When you see the exit for Point Clear, the exit lane immediately tells you that you are headed to somewhere special.  The roadway is lined with American flags.  You would swear that they must be celebrating something special, and they are, your arrival!

Fairhope is a sleepy kind of town.  No major shopping centers, and no Walmart close by. Lots of shops dot the main streets full of art, antiques,  and clothing than can occupy a day for the bargain hunter in you. There are no high rise buildings to block your view.  The streets are full of 100 year old live oak trees with Spanish Moss dangling in the breeze.

There are several parks and vantage points to view Mobile Bay, especially at sunset.  There are plenty of boats to watch sail or motor by.

In the spring, they have a wonderful arts and craft fair that have vendors by invitation.  We have been to it several times, and the spring azaleas are usually in full bloom.

A little further south down the road is Point Clear.  More and more people are making this area their home, as evidenced by the new housing construction that is going up.

The Marriott Grand is the last stop on this road, as far as I'm  concerned.  There is no "true beach" scene here, with the murky waters of Mobile Bay, but that doesn't matter at all.

The convention center is the draw, and along with the attendees come the spouses and kids.  There is a wonderful pool with water slide and waterfall, as well as attendants to take care of your every need.  There is also a golf course for those that are inclined.

The fun part of this place is the relaxation.  Like Fairhope, the property is covered in old live oak trees with Spanish Moss overhead as you stroll on their many pathways.

At 4:00 the staff perform a drum March to the pier, with children not far behind.  Once they arrive at the pier, they fire off the ceremonial cannon.  A couple of guest just jumped poolside when it went off.

There is a walkway along the shoreline.  The pathway is dotted with several wooden swings that are a joy to sit in and watch the sun set dead ahead.  The breeze off the Bay helps as the summer begins to heat up.

Either early, or after the sun sets, you can find additional enjoyment discovering a new favorite restaurant or two.

If you're looking for some place to rest and relax, give this slice of the Alabama coast a shot!

Beware of the YETI!

I've never been one to spend money on things that are pricey, mainly because that's never been my mindset, and over the years the money was spent raising two boys.

When it comes to a "want list", mine has never been long, since it's my tendency to just buy it when I want it.

When the YETI coolers came out, the curiosity got the best of me, but the pricing made me chuckle with the mindset of "ha!  Not in my lifetime!"

To my surprise, and delight, the spousal unit and the boys gave me the small YETI Roady as a gift.  This cooler has been impressive!  One beach run, I filled it up with our "Ziparitas" (frozen margaritas in a ziploc bag) and they were still frozen six hours later when we reached our destination!

Last summer we were at Point Clear, Alabama for a spousal unit retreat.  While she was in meetings I went shopping. I returned with a set of YETI 30 oz ramblers as wedding anniversary gifts to ourselves.  The first day I became a believer!  It didn't take long for this to become our favorite roadie cup on trips but they also became our favorite beach cup.  Turns out they are the perfect container for our Ziparitas!   Once you have sucked out all the liquid, you have Hawaiian ice to enjoy the rest of the day!

Yesterday I stopped by Sonic and got a route 44 frozen lemonade.   I eventually transferred it to my rambler and there is still frozen lemonade in the cup this morning!

It's now a year later and we are again in Point Clear, and it's time for another anniversary gift.  As I'm looking around, it hits me, why not another YETI?

I like a cold beer, and the spousal unit likes her DDP's.  Hummm.  Looks like the YETI  Colster is what the DDP ordered!  I couldn't wait to take them on a test run!  On the way back to the Grand, I loaded up on beer and ice.  The DDP could wait!

Back at the hotel, I waited for the beer to get good and cold.  Finally, I had ice cold beer!  Test time!  I inserted the can into the Colster and pop went the top!  First sip, ice cold!  Second, third and fourth sips, ice cold!  I purposely took an hour to drink the first beer, and like the Colster wrapper said, it was cold to the last sip!

Granted, your average beer drinker isn't going to take an hour to finish a can!  But, I can just see the spousal unit at the beach, sipping her DDP and it not getting warm.  And I'll be under the umbrella updating FB and not have to worry about my beer warming up!  We have always brought plastic bottles to the beach, but now, hey!  Cans are us!

I can already see it. Next year it will be the YETI Hopper bag!  But small, medium or large???

Yep!  I have a new addiction!  Just glad YETI didn't come along before kids and their college educations.

Beware of the YETI!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Marco Island Observations

This trip to Marco Island was one of the best beach trips ever, probably because it is so different to our usual trips to the "Redneck Riveria" along the Alabama coast and Florida panhandle.

The shoreline faces west, so you get these unbelievable sunsets over the water, and it's cool to watch the sun finally dip below the horizon.

The beach sand is not my favorite, preference being the sugar with sands of the panhandle.  The sand is very compacted, from all the crushed shells you have to traverse to get to the water's edge.  The biggest benefit of these beach conditions is all of the sea shells that you can pickup off the shore. Out in the water, if you waded to the next shallow area on a sand bar, you could spot live starfish and live sand dollars.  These must be returned to the waters to insure that they are still there for future generations.

Our time there was at the end of "snow bird" season.  You could tell what months they prefer just from the list of weeks that were for sale.  One listing in mid February was for top floor, 2 bedroom, four consecutive weeks for $165,000.  This was the exception, but lots of snow birds find that a bargain compared to the cost of private ownership of a condo unit on the beach.

There were quite a few people from California.   That at first surprised me.  They all said that they loved their beaches back home, but you just can't beat being in these warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Two ladies said their time will be spent on this beach and in these waters, and no time in the pool because they all have them back home!

There were plenty of noodles and toys to use at both the pool and the beach.  These are a collection of items left behind by guests that flew in.

These northerners have this beach destination thing figured out.  They fly in, then stop at Walmart, Sam's,  etc... and pickup beach chairs and umbrellas.  Some have even figured out that you can go to the consignment and resale shops and pick up chairs and umbrellas for a fraction of the cost, then either leave the stuff behind or resale it back to the shops.  I think we all have a bit of Jewish blood in us because nobody wanted to pay $28 a day for a setup each day!  Some of our "new friends" gave us four chairs,  two mats and an umbrella that were not a week old.  We shared some of this pirate booty with our new favorite couple from Georgia!

The best part about this southwest corner of Florida is that "my beach season" is the "off season" for the snowbirds!  There were only a dozen or so couples on the beach during our entire week's stay!  I had a FB memory pop up from 4 yrs ago at Sandestin,  and it was wall to wall umbrellas!

For us, there will be many more trips to this corner of Florida.  For us, the pleasure we get from this place far out weigh the drive to get there.  We are only half way home and already we have the itch to return!

Life is good.  All the time!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Beach Lingo

If you've never been to.the beach, but are planning on going and eventually want to become a beachnick you must be familiar with the lingo:

1.  Chorus line:  when you look up and see five or more guys in a row, in the water, facing the horizon,  after drinking one too many beers.

2.  Squealer:  you're laid back, enjoying the view, and sounds of the surf, then you hear it:  woman screaming her head off, because "something" just touched her.  What!??  There are fish in this water???

3.  Bombs away:  when some nut decides to feed a bird.  One bird becomes a whole flock.  Feeding one becomes a freenzy, and the next thing you know, you're the one getting bombed from above!

4.  Swoll up:  there's that gal, cute little thang, wearing her itty bitty bikini, and she's at least five months pregnant!

5.  Red Flag:  the color of the day, telling you that you've got no business being in the water today.  Rip currents will eventually grab somebody with no regard for themselves or the unlucky soul that tries to save them.

6.  Rentals:  these are the chairs and umbrellas that greet you when you top the dune.  They rent for $25-50 a day, with a discount for the week.   Be like Bill, bring your own....

7.  Crime scene tape:  sometimes you will see a spot in the sand that has been marked off with sticks and crime scene tape.  Nobody died.  This is the location of a sea turtle nest.  If you're lucky, and your timing is right, you might get to watch the little ones making a run for the water!

8.  Flying kite:  not what you think.  It's a windy day, and some nut has not secured his umbrella or tent canopy.  Then a big gust of wind grabs it and off it goes!  Hopefully nobody close gets hurt.

9. Roasted and toasted:  there is always that guy that doesn't bother with sun screen.  Next thing you know, he's riper than a tomato!  He won't be back tomorrow, or any other day!

10.  Diaper babe:  the woman that refuses to buy a new swimsuit, and the one she has on, the elastic and spandex is totally shot, evidenced by her saggy bottom!

11.   Navy Diver:  that guy, that shows up with his latest purchase from the surf shop:  snorkle, mask, and fins.  You can usually spot him in three feet of water getting tossed about by the rolling surf!

12.  Jay Bird:  some parents let their toddler free style, with nothing on but a smile.

13.  Fire walker:  the Dude that shows up barefoot on the hottest day ever.  Hot!  Hot!  Hot!

14.  Sentry :  that lone wolf that shows up, by himself, usually with a chair and a small cooler.

15.  D J:  the guy that brings his boom box and plays his music loud enough for the whole beach to hear!

16.  The Creature from the Black Lagoon:  this would be the guy or gal that comes in from playing in the gulf, and they have more tattoo ink than clear skin on their body!

17.  Cliff diver:  that newbie at the beach that gets a running start and dives through the first wave, only to crash land on the sandy bottom!

18.  Board walk shuffle:  the amusing sight of watching older folks making their way to and from the water!

19. Noodler:  that man or woman that requires more than two noodles for floatation in the resort swimming pool.

20.  Sargent Major:  that woman, that takes charge, and uses the first fifteen minutes to remind all the kids about beach safety, and how to stay alive in that water out there!

There are a lot more.  These will help you make it thru the first hour, then you're on your own!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Beaching On the Cheap

Somebody asked for the essentials for beaching.  I try, as best I can, to do it as cheap as possible.  This includes buying extra swimmy suits at the end of the season when they are marked down 75% off.  Ain't no reason for a woman to show up at the beach with a six year old swimmy suit that the elastic is shot and her rear has a sag line, if you know what I mean!  It's best to have two or maybe three suits so that you will always have a clean one while the other is either drying or being washed.

When you travel to the beach as much as we do, you figure out that chair and umbrella rentals are expensive!  We opt to bring our own.  I like the Sportsbrella model the best because it is light weight and has the UV coating on the underside.  Luckily we have never had one tear up on us by the wind.  I use plastic anchors to hold the umbrellas in the ground.  I tried using a metal one once, but the tightening knob rusted shut after one season.

For me, I cannot do without my beach cart.  They roll great, til you reach sand, then you end up dragging to your spot, but it can carry just about everything you want to bring. We then collapse it at put it behind our chairs.

We like using sand spikes to hold our cups, and sometimes our electronic devices.  These spikes help keep the sand off your stuff.

This year we have added a Bluetooth speaker so we can listen to Internet radio or pandora.  Helps pass the time when the beach birds aren't flocking that day.

If you are into shelling, be sure to bring along a mesh bag and also pick up a dip net or shelling stick.  These are helpful in keeping the sea water out of your mouth when those rogue ways come your way.

Most resorts furnish beach towels that can be exchanged at some point for a clean one.  We tend to bring extras, just in case.

Toiletries are a no brainer, but you can pack a littler lighter by bringing the small sample sizes of shampoo and tooth paste to save room in your suitcase.

If you are bringing a wee one, a fitted sheet makes a great play pad.  Just put something substantial in the corners to keep the sheet stretched out tight.  Your wee one will have a ball and be "sand free" for the most part.

If you are doing the Condo thing, you need to pack a box with all the kitchen items that you will need:  washing powder pods, foil, paper supplies, seasonings, etc...

We bring along our margarita machine, ziploc bags, and all the ingredients for frozen ritas.  I freeze them overnight and use them as ice packs for the early part of the day, then by 11 or so, it's "5 o'clock somewhere"!

I've learned from other guests, that if you are flying in for your beach vaca, think about stopping by the resale and consignment shops for umbrellas and chairs.  You can either sales them back to the shops, or leave them at the complex for newly arriving guests to enjoy!

We usually cook at least half our meals at our unit and also do simple breakfasts and pack sandwiches and snacks for our all day stay beaching.  Bringing the basic seasonings from home help keep down the cost of the trip to the grocery store.

Once you are at the beach, enjoy yourself.  Respect others by not playing you music too loud, and pick up after yourself.  Be mindful not to feed the birds.  You will start a freezy, and some poor soul will get "bombed".

That's about it for this one.  Enjoy yourself, especially when you are beaching.  No problems, no worries, just wind, sand and surf!